I subscribe to Internet Q & A's by John Shelby Spong. I know to some, he is a controversial figure, but I liked the question and his answer in this weeks topic. I just thought I would share. I know we have discussed this before, but was curious if anyone's postion has evolved even more than before?
Donna Percy from the Internet, writes:
"The idea of calling God "He" bothers me. Although I had a loving father, in my 28 years of teaching I have come in contact with many who were abusive. One year, a grandmother came in for a parent conference and revealed that her granddaughter's father, under the guise of saying goodnight prayers with his daughter, sexually abused her for years. I wonder how this girl will be able to receive God's message when she continually hears God referred to as "He"? Even the hymns are filled with references to "Him." Fortunately, our current pastors use "God" — not the pronoun — and few in the church have noticed. I write on behalf of all the girls of this world who, like my beloved student, have been hurt deeply by their fathers."
I share your concern but we have to overcome perhaps 10,000 years of training in the maleness of God. An enormous start on this consciousness raising activity has been achieved, but to erase the influence of the ages will literally take ages. Liturgies change, but ever so slowly, and most of them even now are rooted in the 13th century. The gospels reflect the patriarchal prejudice of the first century Jewish world in which they were created. Even the Ten Commandments assume that women are the property of men (thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his ox).
Polygamy is present in the Bible because women were defined as property hence the richer the man was, the more wives he could possess, as well as more sheep and cattle. My guess is that it will take another 100-200 years to remove the prejudice and stain of patriarchy from our patterns of worship. That is not said to be discouraging since that is very rapid in terms of how long sexism has been around. The fact remains that for those who are victimized by this prejudice, every day is one day too long.
This concern only dawned on me well into my adult life. I recall that when I wrote in 1973 and published in 1974 my second book, "This Hebrew Lord," I was unknowingly still completely insensitive to male-oriented, non-inclusive language. That was also no problem for my publisher, Harper Collins. Even their style sheet was not sensitive to the need for inclusive language. When HarperCollins asked me to revise this book for a new edition in 1986, both of us were in a new place. I made approximately 3500 changes in the text of this 180 page book, 90% of which were to remove sexist language, like the references to God that referred to God as "father, he, him or his." A wonderful early feminist woman in my congregation in Richmond, Virginia, named Holt Carlton, had begun very lovingly, but very persistently to raise my awareness to my closed-minded, unconscious, sexist prejudices. I was amazed that in the space of 12 years things about which I had no sensitivity at all had actually become offensive to me. All of us are caught up in this change whether we recognize it or not. The rate of change accelerates every year as the flow of information becomes almost instantaneous, but for sexism to be completely removed will still take three or four more generations. One reason for the slow pace is that both fundamentalist Protestant churches and Roman Catholic churches spend enormous energy opposing these changes. Those efforts will fail, but they do keep us from moving as rapidly as we might otherwise move. It is also one more sign of both the irrelevance and even the death of institutional religion, which always seems to be on the wrong side of history.
I do not urge you to be patient. I urge you, rather, to be loud in your complaints until the consciousness of all people becomes aware of the power of language.
God is not a father or a mother. Patriarchy has defined God for thousands of years, but patriarchy is now dying.
Thanks are due to people like you for being part of its death.
-- John Shelby Spong
Labels: Culture, Gender Issues, Theology